ThunderCat Interviews: Bengali
By Bill Taylor
Entertainment Tonight's interviews with the Thundercats! Next: Bengali's
Date of birth: June 8, 1961
Place of birth: Hannibal, Missouri
Weight: 215 pounds
Fur: White with black stripes
Bengali: I'm not really an actor. I'm a carpenter, and judging by the
reactions I get from customers, a damn good one. I was working on
Thundercats long before I was asked to join the cast. I was one of the
carpenters who helped to assemble the sets. One day, I bumped into Lion-o
while constructing a set, and I shrank back in terror, thinking he might
beat me up or something. He was bigger than me, and he weighed more, and
since he was the star of the show, I thought he might have had delusions of
God hood. To my surprise, he actually apologized to me for not watching
where he was going. Then, for some reason, I engaged him in conversation,
and found out from him that the producers were looking for some new
characters for season two, to help spread things out for the writers, get
some new blood, that kind of thing. He asked me if I was interested. Not
knowing what else to say, I said yeah, I'm interested.
Lion-o took me to a rehearsal room, where I met Lynx-o and Pumyra. They
were being tested with each other and with some of the already established
cast members. I was tested first with Lion-o and Tygra in a few scenes to
see what kind of chemistry there might have been, then they paired me with
Pumyra and Lynx-o, to see what kind of chemistry I might have had with
them. I was asked to hang out with all the cast members, mostly because the
established cast wanted to feel out the new additions, and from there, the
writers could think up ways for the characters to interact with one
another. I did not expect to be picked, but I was. The rest is history.
I have some wonderful memories from working there. I used to tell Lion-o
how lucky we all were, how lucky the producers were and how lucky the
audience was. There was some clowning around off camera, jokes, food
fights, etc. From what I'm told, there was a lot less of it because of
Lynx-o's presence, since he had a reputation for being serious, on camera
and off camera. One thing that surprised me was that the cast actually
manipulated the scripted dialogue they got. Since a lot of it was kind bad,
they changed things considerably during rehearsals. As we all know, the
rehearsal is to give you a chance to chew on your lines and get a feel for
the moment. For us, it was more. We had to chew on our lines and see if we
could spit it back out and make it sound and/or feel right. Sometimes what
sounds right on paper doesn't sound right when spoken aloud, and everyone
was free to change things as they saw fit, as long as they still got the
concept across. I didn't do too much of that at first, for fear I would get
fired. It took me awhile to relax and feel like I was part of the family.
I was real nervous, so was Pumyra. Lion-o tried to help us feel more
relaxed in our work. He used to invite us to his place to play poker, watch
the Super Bowl, that kind of thing. He invited everyone, actually. At his
place, a lot of calamity went on. What I didn't know was that Lion-o was
dating Pumyra off camera. That kind of hurt, since I sort of liked her
then, but I should have seen it. At the screenings, they hit off real fast.
I eventually put it together when I noticed that she usually stayed at his
place after we left.
But despite it, I still respected Lion-o. He was kind of like the big
brother I never had. He was always reassuring me that I would do fine and
that any mistakes that took place were not my fault. He was the heart of
the show. Although he admitted we played things to a certain silliness,
Lion-o believed in the messages we gave out to kids, and he believed kids
should have role models like they got on our shows.
However, I do have some less wonderful memories of working there. The
producers and crew still expected me to continue with my duties as a
carpenter, so I had to come to work early to get a head start. I didn't get
scripts mailed to me like everyone else. I usually had to look off of
someone else's. I thank God they excepted me so well. Also, I did not get a
dressing room, or a trailer, for that matter. I found an old storage room
we had been using for props, and moved in there. I brought in a few things:
Chair, TV set, desk, lamp. I could not bring in too much, since the room
was so small. I always brought my lunch to work and kept it in Lion-o's
refrigerator, because even with two pay checks for building and acting, I
[still] couldn't afford to eat in the dinning hall. I was not entitled to
any of the liberties my cast members, especially the senior cast members,
Another difficulty was my role on the show as a blacksmith. I told the
producers and the writers that I was a carpenter and asked them to
integrate that into the scripts, but they said no because they thought a
carpenter did not fit in quite right. I told them I knew nothing of
blacksmith's work, but they ignored me, and they would not hire a
consultant either. I had to hunt down books on the blacksmith trade and
study it for the show. I took it everywhere, even to rehearsals and to the
actually filming location to help out during those blacksmith pounding
scenes. I was warned that if I didn't keep up with the show, I would get
fired. Then when I came to work one day, I found out that all the stuff in
my room had been taken out. I was outraged. This was war. I ended up
fighting for better treatment because, senior cast member or not, I
deserved to be treated fairly, to have a dressing room, to receive scripts,
and well, you get the idea.
One thing I'd like to clear up are the rumors that Lynx-o was
temperamental. He was not temperamental, which is another way of saying he
was a pain in the ass to work with. It was an honor to work with him. He
simply demanded quality in the stories. The way he saw it, it was a kiddie
show, but that did not mean it had to be silly. It could have well written
stories that made you think and put more into your head than just images of
When year three ended, we all figured it was over. Then we found out that
we were renewed for a fourth year. Instead of being happy, we were annoyed.
We thought year three would be the end, and year three had been built up as
being the end, and then we were asked to go for one more. Lion-o seemed
particularly disgruntled. At first, he hoped we would encounter new threats
and enemies and what not, then they brought back Mumm-Ra, who had supposed
to be destroyed by the ASOE (Ancient Spirits Of Evil). Lion-o saw year four
as just a silly rehash of things done before, and he thought it was a waste
But for what it was worth, he managed to find pleasure in his work during
the last year. We all did, even though Tygra and Pumyra were gone. This was
perhaps the best time of my life. The show lasted four years. The memories
FACTS: The Missouri born tiger was an only child in the suburbs. Bengali's
parents divorced when he was seven, and he lived with his father, a doctor.
Bengali spent most of his spare time as a child admiring men involved with
construction, which lead him to pursue his career in carpentry. He was
building cabinets and decks before getting his job on Thundercats, and from
there, he found unexpected fame and fortune.
During the show's run, Bengali dated both Mandora, the intergalactic cop
who showed up occasionally, and Jagura, the keeper of the gyroscope on New
Thundera (she was not as old as she was presented as being). Neither
relationship went anywhere, and Bengali says he's still friends with both
Mandora and Jagura.
Bengali is still an active carpenter, though he made enough from the show
that he could have retired. He is divorced with two children.
Also, in case you never noticed, Bengali was the only Thundercat who did
not have brown or orangish brown eyes (though camera angles occasionally
affected their appearance).
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